Issue 2, 2016
Mainframe integration made easy
By Jürgen Lind, Senior Product Manager, Software AG
and Bernhard Fricke, Senior Software Specialist, EntireX Development, Software AG
Mainframe integration today can be a challenge. Read how webMethods EntireX can help you easily integrate mainframe applications, such as COBOL and Natural, with new technologies, including webMethods Integration Server.
Nowadays, more and more IT professionals have little to no knowledge of mainframe technology. This is scarcely surprising. IT professionals must constantly update their knowledge to keep pace with new technologies. There is hardly any time available to go back and relearn the roots of IT—the mainframe.
On the other hand, those roots go back not such a long way that there are IT specialists still in business today who started out working with mainframes. You can still find excellent mainframe expertise around, although it is rapidly disappearing.
Today, the outlook for the mainframe can vary considerably from company to company. For some, the mainframe is on the brink of becoming obsolete. For others, the mainframe represents a long-term investment that still runs business-critical applications. These companies find it unacceptable to replace the mainframe. Furthermore, committed mainframe specialists are constantly exploring how they can extend the useful life of mainframes—naturally, not just for altruistic motives!
Meanwhile, enthusiastic young IT professionals are confronted with a challenge every time they have to integrate these “anachronistic” mainframe machines with their new technologies. They don’t want to deal with “unreadable variable names” and “weird data structures,” and even less with mainframe colleagues. Obviously, the agile and ambitious youngsters without any understanding of the mainframe are also not easy to deal with. On top of all this, communication problems between the “old” and the “new” may be exacerbated because the people and budgets supporting mainframes may reside in a different department from those more actively involved in new technologies.
For the aforementioned reasons and more, mainframe integration can be a real pain to execute. Luckily, there is webMethods EntireX. With EntireX, there is no need for supporters of the mainframe and supporters of new technology to compete with each other. As shown in Figure 1, integrating these technologies to work together seamlessly with EntireX is really easier than you would imagine.
Figure 1: webMethods EntireX seamlessly integrates mainframe applications with new technologies.
Existing mainframe assets are typically used by other applications. Therefore, changing such assets can become a major challenge. With EntireX, most existing interfaces can be re-used unchanged. As a result, mainframe applications are offered as services in a modern way. They can continue to play an important role in new applications implemented outside of the mainframe.
Integrating in the opposite direction is a strength of EntireX—mainframe applications can trigger off-host processes. EntireX supports all common scenarios in both directions, inbound as well as outbound.
With EntireX, you have many options to modernize your mainframe interfaces and open them up to modern environments. In this section, we will keep it simple and focus on integrating COBOL with webMethods Integration Server.
IT professionals have no need to struggle with “weird mainframe data structures” when setting up this type of integration. The extraction process provides sensible default mappings into modern structures and formats. This keeps the mainframe knowledge your users need to a minimum.
The rich extraction functionality offered with EntireX includes:
- “Mainframe data formats” can be transformed into target end-point formats
- “Unreadable mainframe variable names“ can be given meaningful names outside the mainframe
- “Mainframe variables” can be suppressed
- Constant values can be assigned to mainframe variables
- Optional output can be transformed into an optional group
- Null values can be suppressed (e.g., array elements)
- Multiple Possible Output (MPO) can be transformed into separate groups
- Fix tables used in a variable manner can be transformed into unbounded arrays
- Common interface types supported include CICS® COMMAREA, CICS® channel container and IMS™ connect
- Multiple COBOL functions can be transformed into multiple operations of a Web service
- “OCCURS DEPENDING ON” can be transformed into an unbounded array
- “REDEFINES” can be transformed into separate groups
Eclipse™-based development environment
Young IT professionals will find EntireX modern and appealing because integration development is done with Software AG Designer, an Eclipse-based development environment. Convenient Eclipse wizards guide you intuitively through the necessary steps to create all major assets for your integration scenario, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Intuitively create all major assets for your integration scenario with Eclipse-based wizards.
You will find the most common integration scenarios with COBOL, Natural, Web services and webMethods Integration Server in the EntireX documentation, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Here are common integration scenarios for COBOL, Natural, Web services and webMethods Integration Server.
Our EntireX documentation provides readers a quick and easy orientation to the tasks needed to execute an integration scenario. It starts you off with a high-level view and leads you down to the technical details. As outlined in Figure 2, each scenario consists of three major tasks: extract, generate and test/run. The documentation provides you an overview of the EntireX components involved and their interaction for each scenario. Hyperlinks guide you through the pages relevant for component setup.
EntireX Adapter for webMethods Integration Server
Did you know that EntireX is directly integrated with webMethods Integration Server as an adapter?
The EntireX Adapter has zero mainframe footprint with IMS™ Connect and CICS® ECI Connections. You do not need to install anything on the mainframe to access those systems with EntireX. Other options provide access to a broad range of legacy systems via a high speed EntireX Broker.
You may monitor and administer the EntireX Adapter with the usual Integration Server Web admin tool, minimizing the learning curve for the webMethods Integration Server administrator.
Figure 4: Administer the EntireX Adapter from the webMethods Integration Server Web admin tool.
If you are seeking a cost-effective and efficient path for modernizing your IT systems that requires minimal mainframe knowledge, then look no further than webMethods EntireX. Exploit its wide range of endpoint support and bi-directional capabilities. Let webMethods EntireX help you to protect your investments in Natural and COBOL.
To learn more, read Common Integration Scenarios from webMethods EntireX documentation.